I was discussing health insurance with a young person (early 20s) who told me they hadn't had insurance coverage since they dropped out of college at the age of 19 and moved out of their parents home. I mentioned that I had to go about 3 months without health insurance and how scary I found that feeling. I told them I would say a little prayer every time I got in the car that Jesus protect me because I couldn't afford an accident even if it wasn't my fault.
This person looked a bit perplexed and said that the emergency room is always free so they didn't worry about that. I responded that while the ER must treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay, you would get a bill for the services - a rather big bill. Yes, they said, but those bills go away if you ignore them long enough.
I walked away really thinking about that. This person really thought that the ER was a free service not because they don't pay their bills, but because the ER HAD to provide care to everybody. This person doesn't have insurance because they cannot afford it and while that concerns them, they don't worry overmuch because in their mind, that is what the ER is there for.
Now I have family that lives in Tucson, a metro area of approximately 1 million people, where all but one of the trauma centers have been shut down because too many non-insured people used the trauma centers every year and they could not afford to keep them open. This was several years ago so they may have been able to re-open some since - I'm not sure, however this is a perfect example of what happens when that mindset is prevalent among too many people.
So my question is this - what do we do about this issue? Is government health care a way to make sure people get the care they need without bankrupting the hospitals? Is private health care the answer and stop taking care of people without the ability to pay? If you go to an ER without the ability to pay should you actually get sent to the morgue waiting room to pick out your coffin? I'm serious. I've been thinking about this issue for a couple of days. I haven't done nearly the research on health care reform that I should, so I'm curious about what those of you who have researched it or do work in the health care field think. Politics aside as much as you can please.